The other day I was lying down in my small plywood cabin after a long day guiding at the Baranof Wilderness Lodge in Alaska, where I've been since early August. The fire was raging, which helped to dry out all my rain-soaked gear, and my firm, inflatable mattress helped crack my spine back into place after a day of bad posture caused by stooping under my heavy rubber raingear.
I usually get a bit of reading in when I work at the BWL, and this year one of my choices was "A Salty Piece Of Land" by Jimmy Buffet. The book is the story of a cowboy from Montana named Tully Marrs and his unlikely adventures. I had just finished reading about his journey from working at a poodle ranch in the mountains of Montana to working as a fly-fishing guide on the beaches of a tropical island.
As my muscles were resting and the wood stove slowly dried my clothes, I found myself captivated by the dramatic changes in Tully’s life as the chapters came and went, and it occurred to me that my life is changing just as fast and dramatically. That evoked the same sense of excitement, uncertainty and optimism that I felt when I was reading the book.
Now I'm back home from a 5-week stint at the BWL, but the difference this year is that everything has changed and I wont have a true “home” until November when I will finally move to Guntersville, Ala. In the meantime I'll be traveling throughout the Southeast, fishing till I’m blue and/or broke, and competing in three Oakley Big Bass events and an FLW College Fishing Conference Championship.
I go into everything with a sense of freedom that I can only compare to my move from California to Florida in 2006. A chapter has ended as another begins.
Before moving on to the future, Ill recap what has been going on with me over the last month and change.
This was my 8th season working at the lodge, and although I sometimes I feel a little out of place in a bass-less setting, I cannot deny that that little part of Southeast Alaska will always be home to me, and my friends there will always be family.
That being said, guiding this year was a challenge. The halibut fishing was satisfactory, but the silver salmon fishing we normally enjoy this time of year was a disaster. For unknown reasons, following a stellar 2011 season, 2012 went in the history books as a complete bust for those shiny little suckers, and needless to say it made my job a whole lot harder at times.
Other than the lack of silvers, my short season went pretty well. I was even able to bring my good friend Katie up for an entire week, which was pretty special for both of us. She digs the outdoors about as much as I do and it was just really cool to be able to share things with her in Alaska that I have regretfully started to take for granted.
I was also able to make enough money to hopefully sustain myself for awhile as I figure out things in Alabama. I’m just thankful to have that job up there to help me make all the moves I need to make.
Oakley and FLW
Although I'd like to take a few days to just rest after getting back from the exhausting work schedule I had in Alaska, I really haven’t allowed myself much time. I’ve got four tournaments between now and the end of October and I need to get back on the road.
Right now I'm in Rock Hill, N.C., practicing for the FLW College Southeast Conference Championship, an event that I really look forward to. For the rest of the fall season, I will be very busy fishing and filming with the Oakley Big Bass Tour.
The first stop on the fall tour for me will be Lake Murray on the 30th of September. This means that I will only be fishing 1 day, since the first day of the Oakley Jason Williamson Big Bass Classic overlaps with the final day of the FLW event on the 29th.
The second Oakley fall stop is October 13-14 at Lake Guntersville for the Gerald Swindle Big Bass Classic, an event I am extremely eager to fish since it will kind of be my ice-breaking tournament for a lake I will no doubt get to know very well.
Finally I will end my Oakley Big Bass career at the Rusty Wallace Big Bass Classic on Douglas Lake in Tennessee on October 20-21.
The fall schedule of the Oakley Tour is going to be a bittersweet deal for me. On one hand, in these events I will get some practice time in, as opposed to the spring events, but on the other hand I will be closing out a season spending time with people I really liked hanging out with, as well as competing in a tournament format that I thoroughly enjoyed.
As they say, all good things must come to an end.
Although I'm looking forward to all the fishing and traveling I'll be doing in the next few months, I'm uncertain whether I'll be able to sustain myself with my Alaska earnings. I'm kind of jumping feet-first into the next chapter in my life journey without knowing exactly how I'll be able to handle it financially.
I'm less worried about the fall than I am with the upcoming 2013 season, when Ill have to come up with some substantial funds to compete in at least one B.A.S.S. Open division and one EverStart division like I'm planning on, but I'm a firm believer that I'll be able to make things happen as long as I stay on top of it.
I think a little uncertainty will serve me well and will complement my newfound sense of post-school freedom. I'm anxious to see where the next chapters of my life take me.
Miles "Sonar" Burghoff is a recent graduate of t the University of Central Florida and the winner of the 2011 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship. He's an aspiring professional angler who writes a regular column for BassFan. To visit his website, click here. You can also visit him on Facebook and Twitter.